A Time of Prosperity: Chapter 17
December 1, 1842. For the last several months, money and supplies have continued to flow in without interruption as they were needed. There was no excess or lack. But nothing came in today except five shillings for needlework. We only had enough to supply our absolute need-milk. We were unable to purchase the usual quantity of bread.
Someone may ask, "Why don't you buy the bread on credit? What does it matter whether you pay immediately for it or at the end of the month? Since the Orphan Houses are the work of the Lord, can't you trust Him to supply you with money to pay the bills from the butcher, baker, and grocer? After all, the things you purchase are needed so that the work may continue."
My reply is this: If this work is the work of God, then He is surely able and willing to provide for it. He will not necessarily provide at the time we think that there is need. But when there is real need, He will not fail us. We may and should trust in the Lord to supply us with what we require at present, so that there may be no reason to go into debt.
I could buy a considerable amount of goods on credit, but the next time we were in need, I would turn to further credit instead of turning to the Lord. Faith, which is maintained and strengthened only by exercise, would become weaker and weaker. At last, I would probably find myself deeply in debt with no prospect of getting out of it.
Faith rests on the written Word of God, but there is no promise that He will pay our debts. The Word says, "Owe no man anything" (Rom. 13:8). The promise is given to His children, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5). "He that believeth on him shall not be confounded" (1 Peter 2:6). We have no scriptural grounds to go into debt.
Our goal is to show the world and the Church that even in these last evil days, God is ready to help, comfort, and answer the prayers of those who trust in Him. We need not go to our fellowmen or to the ways of the world. God is both able and willing to supply us with all we need in His service.
Through the printed accounts of this ministry, many have been converted. We consider it our precious privilege to continue to wait upon the Lord only instead of buying goods on credit or borrowing money from kind friends. As God gives us grace we will look to Him only, although from meal to meal we have to depend on Him. God is now in the tenth year of feeding these orphans, and He has never allowed them to go hungry. He will care for them in the future also.
I am deeply aware of my own helplessness and dependence on the Lord. Through the grace of God my soul is in peace, although day after day we have to wait on the Lord for our daily bread.
December 16. Nothing has come in. At six o'clock this evening, our need was very great in the Orphan Houses and the day schools. I prayed with two of the laborers. We needed some money to come in before eight o'clock tomorrow morning, so that we could buy milk for breakfast. Our hearts were at peace, and we felt assured that our Father would supply our need.
We had scarcely risen from our knees when I received a letter containing a sovereign for the orphans. About five minutes later, a brother promised to give me fifty pounds next week. A quarter of an hour after that, a brother gave me a sovereign, which a sister in the Lord had left for the orphans. How sweet and precious it is to see the willingness of the Lord to answer the prayers of. His needy children!
February 11, 1843. We had one pound fourteen shillings available to meet the expenses of this day. But since this was not enough, I asked the Lord for help; and this morning's mail brought me two pounds from Stafford. We now have enough for this day.
God's timing is always perfect. Why did this money not come a few days sooner or later? Because the Lord wanted to help us by it, and He influenced the donor just then, not sooner or later, to send it. Surely, all who know the Lord must see His hand in this work. I do not mean to say that it would be acting against the precepts of the Lord to seek for help in His work by personal and individual requests to believers. But I operate the ministry this way for the benefit of the Church at large. I cheerfully bear the trials and the precious joys of this life of faith if at least some of my fellow-believers might see that a child of God does have power with Him by prayer and faith. That the Lord should use for so glorious a service one as unfaithful and unworthy as I am, can only be ascribed to the riches of His grace. He uses the most unlikely instruments so that the honor may be His alone.
March 8. On October 25, 1842, I had a long conversation with a sister in the Lord who seemed to be in a time of great financial need. I told her that my house and my money were hers. I had every reason to believe that she did not even have five pounds of her own. She assured me that she possessed five hundred pounds, and that it never seemed right to give away this money. She believed that God put this sum into her hands without her seeking, and she thought it was a provision which the Lord had made for her. I made no reply to this. She asked me to pray for her about how she should use this money.
After she left, I asked the Lord to cause her to realize the true riches and inheritance in the Lord Jesus and the reality of her heavenly calling. I asked that she would cheerfully lay down this five hundred pounds at His feet. I prayed about the matter daily for twenty-two days without mentioning it to anyone else. It would be far better that she kept this money than give it up and later regret the step she had taken and thereby dishonor the name of the Lord.
One day she was waiting to see me when I came home. She said she had sought the Lord's will concerning the five hundred pounds. She examined the Scriptures, prayed about it, and was now assured that it was His will for her to give up this money. I exhorted her to count the cost and insisted she wait at least two weeks longer before she carried out her intention.
She agreed. Eighteen days later, I received a letter from her. She was ready to give the money to our work in Bristol, but there would be several month's delay before it would be available to me. Naturally, I could have been very disappointed because I already had many ways in mind to use the money. But the Lord continued to meet our needs while I waited confidently on Him.
Day after day passed, and the money did not come. At last, on the one hundred and thirty-fourth day since I had daily sought the Lord about this matter, I received a letter from the sister. She informed me that five hundred pounds had been paid into the hands of my bankers. She wrote in her letter, "I am thankful to say that I have never for one moment had the slightest feeling of regret, but it is wholly of the Lord's abounding grace. I speak it to His praise."
Several weeks later when I visited the. Orphan Houses, one of the sisters mentioned that a young woman who lived with her father on Wilson Street wanted to move to a smaller house. She thought I may be interested in renting their house for the orphans. The sister had replied that she was sure that I had no thought of opening another Orphan House.
The more I pondered the matter, the more it appeared to me that this was the hand of God moving me onward in this service. The following remarkable combination of circumstances struck me in particular: More applications have been made for the admission of orphans, especially during the last few months, than we are able to meet. The houses are filled as much as the health of the children and of the laborers will permit.
If I did rent another house for orphans, it would be most desirable and convenient to be in the same street where the other three are. But since the third Orphan House was opened, none of the larger houses in the street have been available.
Fifteen of the children in the Infant Orphan House should be moved to the house for the older girls, but there is no room. When a vacancy happens to occur in that house, several children are waiting to fill it. My original intention was to move the children older than seven years to the houses for older boys and girls. Another Orphan House would solve the problem.
I know two sisters who would be suitable laborers for this fourth Orphan House, and they have a desire to be part of the work.
Three hundred pounds remain of the five hundred pounds I recently received. This money may be used to furnish a new Orphan House. I have never had this much money on hand at any one time during the last five years-a remarkable thing, in connection with the four other circumstances.
A fourth Orphan House would increase our expenses several hundred pounds a year. We have experienced almost continuous trials of faith for five years. This new Orphan House would prove that I have not regretted this service, and that I am not tired of depending on the Lord from day to day. The faith of other children of God might be strengthened and encouraged.
But as conclusive as these points were, they did not convince me that I should go forward in this service if the Spirit's leading did not accompany them. I therefore prayed day after day, without saying anything to any other person. I prayed twenty-two days without even mentioning it to my dear wife. Finally, I came to the conclusion that God wanted me to establish another Orphan House. That same day I received fifty pounds. What a striking confirmation that the Lord will help although the needs increase!
At last I went to inquire whether the woman still wanted to move to another house. But here I found an apparent hindrance. Since I had not expressed any interest in the house, she and her father changed their plans and decided to remain But they asked me to come back in a week, and they would give me an answer.
I was not upset in the least by this obstacle. "Lord, if You have no need of another Orphan House, I have none," was my prayer. I was willing to do God's will and to delight myself in Him. I knew I was not seeking my own honor but the Lord's. I was not serving myself but Him. Through my times of prayer and waiting on the Lord, I had come to the conclusion that it was His will that I should go forward in this service. For these reasons I felt sure that I would have the house. I faced the obstacle in complete peace-a plain proof that I was being led by the Holy Spirit. If I had sought to enlarge the work by my own efforts, I would have been upset and uncomfortable.
After a week I called again on the woman. That same day her father had gone out and found a suitable house for them. He was willing to let me have the one on Wilson Street. I was accepted as a tenant, and all the difficulties were removed. After - the first of June, we began getting the house ready; and in July, the orphans were received.
When a believer is doing the work that God has called him to do, he may be confident of success in spite of obstacles. The first thing he has to ask himself is: Am I in a calling in which I can abide with God? If you cannot ask God's blessing upon your occupation, or if you would be ashamed to be found in it when the Lord Jesus returns, or if it hinders your spiritual progress, then you must give it up and be engaged in something else. But this is only necessary in a few cases. Most occupations are not of such a nature that a believer would need to give them up in order to maintain a good conscience before God, although certain alterations may need to be made in the manner of conducting the business. The Lord will direct us in this if we wait upon Him and expect to hear His voice.
The next point to be settled is this: Why do I carry on this business, or why am I engaged in this trade or profession? In most instances the answer would be, "I am engaged in my earthly calling so that I may support myself and my family." Here is the chief error that causes almost all the other errors by children of God concerning their calling. To be engaged in a business merely to obtain the necessities of life for ourselves and family is not scriptural. We should work because it is the Lord's will concerning us. "Let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Eph. 4:28).
The Lord generally meets our needs through our jobs. But that is not the reason why we should work. If providing the necessities of life depended on our, ability to work, we could never have freedom from anxiety. We would always have to say to ourselves, "What will I do when I am too old to work, or if I am sick?" But if we are engaged in our earthly calling because it is the will of the Lord for us, He is sure to provide for us because we labor in obedience to Him.
Why do I carry on this business? Why am I engaged in this trade or profession? These questions should first be settled In the fear of God and according to His revealed will. We will then answer honestly, "I carry on my business as a servant of Jesus Christ. He has commanded me to work, 'and therefore, I work." Whether a believer chooses to become a missionary, a teacher, a carpenter, or a businessman, he will be blessed and find satisfaction in his career-as long as he works in joyful obedience to the Lord.
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